Aug 102014
 

The recipe in my last post for a quick and easy steak and potato dish (read here) seemed to be especially popular, and some of you sent me comments and variations. I’m passing some of them along here. One more thing…do wash it all down with a nice Pugliese red. Salute!

A Pugliese red wine with taralli, bread knots. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

A Pugliese red wine with taralli, bread knots. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Great recipe, Julia–reminds me of Tuscan tagliata di bistecca. And perfect for a no-nonsense meal on a hot summer night. You reminded me that the great teaching chef Bill Briwa from the CIA (you know which one of those I mean) experimented with beef and olive oil and found that rare beef, whether roasted or a grilled steak, has a calming, taming effect on those gutsy peppery olive oils we oliophiles love so much, suppressing some of their fieriness and bringing out the natural sweetness of olives. —Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Cortona, Italy

 

Dear Julia, I realize I never did write and say that the meal was spectacular. In fact, as I was preparing it, I realized I couldn’t eat it by myself, so I called my friend Toby in Nyack and she was free for dinner so I had her come to eat.  The olive oil dressing was PERFECT.  Thank you more than I can say for sharing your precious oil with me.  I had some dressing left over and had left-over everything last night, except I didn’t pick more arugula but used finely cut Siberian kale which is very mild.  Delicious.  I love the combination which I would never have thought of making–Toby thought it would have been just as good without the steak!!!—Joan Dye Gussow, Piermont, NY

 

Hi Julia, Did your recipe for steak last night. Added a few things like a variety of sliced cherry tomatoes on the side, shaved sweet white onion under the steak and of course a nice French red to go with it. Delicious! —John F. Carafoli, Cape Cod, MA

I wrote:

 Dear John F. Carofoli, A nice FRENCH red? Really???

 

Julia della Croce's Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Julia della Croce’s Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

 

Aug 022014
 

After my recent travels to Puglia, Italy’s southernmost region, I’ve had its big, bold olive oils on my mind. The province of Bari, founded well before the 8th century BC when it was absorbed by Magna Graecia, has lived on olive oil for millennia. Today the area still makes most of Italy’s olive oils. Drive past places with names like Cassano delle Murge, Bitetto, Bitonto, Bitritto, and Binetto, and you see nothing but forests of olive trees and billows of sky, interrupted now and then by towns undisturbed by tourism. But where once, production was geared toward quantity to meet Europe’s demand for lamp oil, today these fertile flatlands, dotted with small olive farms, are producing some of Italy’s most intriguing olive oils.

Olive groves, Puglia. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Olive groves, Puglia. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

One in particular that came to my attention is Crudo, meaning “raw” in Italian, an estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil from a small producer in Bitetto, a town so rustic that a traveler cannot find one single restaurant there—or in other towns for miles around, for that matter. The oil’s fresh and potent herbaceous aromas and spiciness lifts everything from fish to red meats, especially when they are grilled, and especially when they are peppery.

Ingredients for Peppery Steak Salad. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

The necessary ingredients for Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

With summer in full swing, I came up with this recipe for a peppery steak and potato salad layered over arugula for those evenings when nothing appeals as much as a barbecue.  It’s a re-make of the old-fashioned steak au poivre, but lighter, sleeker, and healthier. The tasty flank steak is coated in smashed peppercorns, seared over hot coals, and layered over arugula with its natural bold spiciness, and boiled sweet fingerling potatoes. I couldn’t think of a better dressing than that beautiful and succulent greengold Crudo.

Continue here to my article in Zester Daily for the full story, the recipe, and sources for buying Crudo.

 

Jul 242014
 
Going Italian at the Fancy Food Show

Summer Fancy Food Show, New York, 2014. The Italians always come bearing cheeses and prosciutto, impeccably dressed and wearing the latest eyeglass styles. If you want to sample some truffles or condimento, they’d rather huddle together in the back corner of their little booths and sip espresso than give you any. You have to wait until they’re good and ready to sell you something, or for those without importers yet, to promote something. That’s the the idea, isn’t it?—To sell you something? Even my “Press” badge doesn’t budge them. Still, the Italian pavilion is always my first stop. I like [...more...]

Jul 172014
 
Readers Write: Dr. Brownlee and His Pasta Prodigy

Every now and then someone sends me a message that’s a real charmer. Here’s one I received at the end of last summer about a recipe that appears in my very first cookbook, Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking. The writer, Dr. John Brownlee, and so many other readers, have raved about it over three decades, so I’m sharing the message and recipe here.  I am preparing to make lo Stracotto for the second time from your book Pasta Classica, which I purchased in 1988 in New Orleans. It taught me to make pasta, a gift which I have [...more...]

Jul 022014
 
True American Eats for the 4th: Fiery Italian-Fried Chicken Wings

There’s thunder and lightening from where I’m sitting looking out my kitchen window, with no sign of let-up for July 4th. If that means a change of plans for you from an all-American barbecue, consider the Independence Day tradition of the American South: fried chicken. While I grew up in an Italian household, fried chicken was always a special dish and it fit in just fine with potato salad and all the other American trimmings. Whether it’s Kentucky-fried, Georgia-fried, or Italian-fried, it’s as American as grilling on the Fourth of July. Here’s my recipe, sprinkled with some fried chicken history. [...more...]

Jun 152014
 
Toritto, Puglia: An Afternoon in My Father's Land

My father left his native Toritto as an infant in his mother’s arms in 1909. With his young parents and grandmother, he sailed for Ellis Island in steerage. The family said that in those bleak times in Puglia, they had survived by eating the wild greens that grew in the fields where they had toiled. Although he returned to Italy many times as an adult, especially to the Carrara quarries to buy marble for his shop in America, my father never went back to where he was born. What kindled his memory was the food he was raised on. His [...more...]

Jun 102014
 
Love Me Tender: The Italian Way with Green Beans

Besides home-grown tomatoes, green beans from my garden are the vegetable I most look forward to in summer. Right after my beans seeds went into the ground and my thoughts turned to eating them, it occurred to me to write Love Me Tender, a story for Zester Daily, about how I like them best. You may want to know my favorite way to cook them if you love them as much as I do, and if you don’t, you might change your mind after you read  here.  

May 192014
 
A 3,000-Year Tradition Makes for Sublime Italian Prosciutto

If you’ve been following my posts this month, you know that I’ve been in Italy at the invitation of the Italian Trade Commission exploring the products of food artisans working in the country’s twenty regions. Throughout May, I’ll be publishing vignettes on some of the food producers I met, both at the 78th annual artisans expo in Florence in April, and subsequently traveling throughout the country. Italian artisans have been making air-cured hams as far back as Etruscan times some 3,000 years ago, originally from the haunches of wild boar. Eventually, pigs were bred and pampered specially for producing prosciutto crudo, [...more...]

Apr 132014
 
I Dream of Rapini Pie

With spring in the air, my thoughts turn to the Italian Easter pie, torta pasqualina, a festive puff pastry dish customarily prepared for consumption on Easter Monday for marauding guests. The tart is more often than not stuffed with ricotta and spinach or chard—the classic greens used for ravioli and such. Emilia-Romagna and Liguria take credit for having invented it (though it seems plausible that country people anywhere would think to put spring greens, foraged or cultivated, into a pastry casing). The torta has been an anticipated ritual for me every season, but this year, I’m making it with a traditional American-style [...more...]